In 2020, the Research Council of Norway launched its new supplementary funding scheme, with the aim of increasing the societal impact of Norway’s participation in Horizon 2020 projects. Specifically, the scheme will enable Norwegian municipal authorities and other public bodies, businesses, special interest organisations and researchers to gain access to research and innovation results emanating from Horizon 2020 projects.
Inaventa Solar has recently started a new project, titled DisolBat (distributed solar and “blue batteries”), which builds on the results of an international collaboration project named RELaTED. Work on RELaTED has led to the identification of innovative technical solutions for solar district heating. However, effective business models for the deployment of these solutions have not yet been established. Developing business models that take into account contributions along the entire value chain will therefore be the primary focus of DisolBat, which has been granted the maximum amount of funding available from the Research Council of Norway.
The thermal sector accounts for around half of the world's energy consumption and must be modernized at a considerably faster pace than what we are seeing today in order to meet the UN's sustainability goals. Distributed green heat production will be an important part of the solution to this challenge, and the effect will be further enhanced if individual contributions can be combined together in flexible heating networks.
However, a greater introduction of solar heating into district heating networks requires business models that facilitate the necessary investments and credit the operational value creation in the distributed infrastructure. Effective business models that stimulate cooperation between district heating companies and suppliers of distributed energy solutions are therefore crucial for the implementation of the well-developed concepts that already exist on the market.
Inaventa Solar's funding application to the Research Council of Norway came on the back of our participation in the Horizon 2020 project RELaTED. Through RELaTED, an innovative concept of decentralized Ultra-Low Temperature (ULT) network solutions was developed, allowing for the incorporation of low-grade heat sources with minimal constraints. The technical solutions that emerged from this work are implemented in both larger and smaller district heating networks across Europe – unfortunately none of them in Norway.
The Norwegian district heating industry has a different energy mix and a greener profile than most other European counterparts. Nevertheless, solar heating solutions that are economically profitable in combination with district heating will also be well-suited to Norway, contributing to greater energy flexibility in line with our energy policy goals.
Inaventa Solar will collaborate with both district heating companies and the Norwegian District Heating Association (Norsk Fjernvarme) to identify a set of operational business models that are adapted to both the Norwegian district heating market and Norwegian energy needs and consumption.
The Norwegian District Heating Association (Norsk Fjernvarme) represents an important knowledge base for the district heating sector in Norway. Inaventa Solar will work closely with the association to ensure that the content of our project is relevant to the sector, and that information surrounding our project results is widely distributed.
The actual development of the business models will be done in collaboration with Norwegian district heating companies and a selection of their customers. There is great variation in both the use of energy sources, actual energy production and customer profiles among Norwegian district heating suppliers. We therefore expect that several viable models will have to be identified. The common element should be that they all facilitate a sustainable addition to the current district heating supply.
Energy flexibility and distributed energy production contribute to a secure and reliable heat supply, and also enable a permanently reduced power requirement. Thermal storage (blue batteries) ensures that the heat is available when needed, regardless of when it is produced. This is a much cheaper solution than electrical energy storage.
District heating can also to help free up capacity in the electric grid. When buildings use district heating for heating purposes, electricity that would otherwise be used can be freed up for other purposes. This increases grid capacity and facilitates for instance the charging of electric vehicles and other electricity-intensive purposes.
District heating and a waterborne distribution system facilitate the choice of environmentally friendly energy supply and renewable energy production. The combination of solar heat and district heating is particularly interesting, not least because it makes solar heat a commercial product. The value of energy production from solar collectors will thereby be registered. As of today, the energy contribution from solar heating systems is undercommunicated. The installations are mainly registered as energy efficiency measures, and consequently the energy production from these falls outside of energy statistics.